By Peter Blaza
MANILA (Reuters) - Screams, blood and death filled an abandoned school in Manila -- but the blood was fake and the dead came back to life when the lights came on.
A Filipino theatre group staged a loose adaptation of controversial Japanese novel "Battle Royale," which revolves around 42 junior high school students who are abducted and sent to an abandoned island by an authoritarian regime and told to kill each other until one survivor remains.
The book inspired a movie, a comic book and now "Battalia Royale" by theatre group Sipat Lawin Ensemble, which reworked the story and changed the setting to an abandoned suburban school.
Cast members ran around the dimly lit building, performing inside classrooms, broken stairwells and a run-down gymnasium as they urged the audience to follow them around.
"It's a social experiment, a theatre experiment, where we question issues of violence, issues of morality and mortality among teenagers," said JK Anicoche, the Sipat Lawin Ensemble director.
Scenes took place a few inches from the audience, who were often sprayed with fake blood when a character was killed. "Dead" actors remained motionless until the end of the show to add an element of reality.
Audience members also became an integral part of the performance, following actors to four separate locations during the show's climax to "pursue" different storylines. They also had a chance to "kill" a character in a decision based on their collective votes.
Each storyline tackled specific human reactions with back stories ranging from betrayal, love, revenge and peer pressure -- to make the characters' choices justifiable in their quest to survive, he added.
Sam Burns-Warr, an Australian script writer who worked on "Battalia Royale," said he wanted the pacing and structure of the show to make the audience think about what they would do if placed in similar situations, without becoming too fixated on the concept.
"We basically just want to open a discussion and discourse, a discussion about everything they experience about the play -- whether it be the violence, whether it be the situation, the way people react to each other, the way the youth is today and how that works, but also the style of the performance," he said.
"We really like to open people up to the kind of interactive, live action game style of performance as well."
Each storyline tackled specific human reactions with back stories ranging from betrayal, love, revenge and peer pressure, to make the character's choices justifiable in their quest to survive, he added.
The three days of performances garnered a local following on social networking sites, and the group said it was possible they might hold another performance in September.
Ynnah Ocampo, a pre-school teacher and fan of Takami's novel, was shocked to see the story unfold in front of her.
"I was not expecting it to be like that when translated on stage. You can actually see these people dead, beside you, some blood squirting on you," she said. "It was shocking - but great."
(Editing by Elaine Lies and Paul Casciato)